When I heard that my hair stylist friend, Danielle, had gotten her own room at Perfect 10 Salon in Fruitland Park, a space to call her own, a space to do a complete overhaul, I knew it was a big deal. It would be a big deal for her, for the salon, and for her clients. She pours herself into a project, and she’s got such a fun eclectic eye for design I think just about anyone could find something to love in what she was bound to make look amazing. From her start as just a senior in high school and over the last ten years she’s never hesitated to tackle her dreams head on. So, once she was done we sat down to document this cornerstone in her career; where she started, how she got there, and why she does what she does.
It’s always what I wanted to do, since I was a little girl. My mom used to find me in the bathroom dying my barbies’ hair with Kool-Aid. My only backup plan was to maybe be a school teacher but I knew I’d end up a stylist.
You went into beauty school very young, right? What was your motivation to go for it and start when you did?
Right! I started my senior year of high school. It felt like a big risk at the time. My mom encouraged me to start when I did because it was just her and I at home, we didn’t have a lot of money, and if I started in high school I could do it under the dual-enrollment program and attend the school for free. I missed a lot of the “senior year” stuff that my friends were doing but it turned out to be my absolute favorite year of school.
Is “beauty school” even the right term? I feel so out of touch, I keep singing “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease in my head!
Haha! I don’t know! I always call it “hair school” but I think beauty school is accurate. We’ll go with beauty school.
What was your least favorite and most favorite thing about beauty school?
Oh my! My least favorite thing was the book work. We didn’t get to go to school and just do pretty things. We first had to study laws and all the technical stuff before we started to do anything. My most favorite thing was that for the first time in my years in any school I felt like I was really great at something. I felt like, until then, I hadn’t found my thing that I was really great at, my friends always had some subject in school that they were great at, hair was my thing. I felt like a star student
Once you finished school you found yourself at a few different salons before you ended up at Perfect 10, were you struggling to find a place to fit in?
I did! Straight out of school I ended up at a salon in downtown Mount Dora. It was just an older lady and myself, it was such an awkward situation. It was such a small place and I spent most of the time pretty much just acting as her assistant but I learned a TON from her, she was a very experienced hairdresser. Next, I ended up at a big salon chain, I really enjoyed it there because I moved up in the salon really quickly. It was a place where I could really shine because they had so many people there. I became a master stylist there within the first six months. They kept rank of all their stylists and I kept the number one spot the entire three years I spent there.
That’s pretty impressive! How did you end up at Perfect 10?
Thank you! I was successful there but I knew I wanted more independence. My mom was a massage therapist at Perfect 10 at the time and she insisted it was the right fit for me. New owners had come to the salon shortly after and they just made this place like my favorite place to be, everyone here is just wonderful, I love it. It just feels like home to me.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken in your career?
Definitely leaving the chain salon. Because there, up until I left, I was commission based, so I had an hourly wage and a percentage of the work I did and I struggled over like 8 months to come to my decision to leave that security. I was pretty much stepping out to start on my own, I wasn’t sure if any of my clients would come with me, it was scary, I didn’t know if I’d be making any money to pay my bills. It ended up being the best decision I could have ever made.
Why did you want your own room at the salon? It seems like a lot of work you put into a space that Perfect 10 owns.
Yeah, I get asked that a lot! It was a ton of work. Really I’ve just always had a bigger vision for the work that I do. It’s always been about my clients and I want them to have an amazing experience. Not just coming to see me, sit in a chair, and have an average experience. I’ve always thought they deserved more than average. I want them to feel like they are escaping and treating themselves to something special.
What was your inspiration for the decor?
I definitely was going for an eclectic and artsy feel. Unusual. Like your grandma’s house, if you had a super chic cool grandma. I wanted it to be super comfortable for men too. I wanted to make sure I had a good balance of masculine & feminine details. Nothing too terribly girly.
So, how long did it take you to put your room here together?
Well, I was a slave driver.
Wait! If you were a slave driver who were your slaves?
HAHA, Alan (my husband) and Dale, the owner of the salon. We really worked ourselves hard. It took about two months but we only worked on it one day a week. Though, the other girls here at the salon used to laugh at me because in between clients I’d sneak back into my room and I’d be sitting on the floor with a dress on, make-up & hair all nice for work with a screw gun in my hand piecing things together. It was a lot of hard work and I was eager to see it come together!
So what are you favorite things about the room?
I love so much about it! But my favorite thing is the couch from Hobby Lobby! And also, I love the mouse door my daughter painted. Alan bought it for her on one of our several trips to Hobby Lobby and I came home one day and she had it all wrapped and taped up with tissue. I opened it up and she let me know it was for the mouse in my salon. (*There is no actual mouse in the salon.)
Do you think you love doing hair now as much you did when you started in 2003?
I do! Actually, I think I love it more! I mean, when I started there was so much uncertainty. I feel very sure of everything I do now. I get to go into everything feeling confident and at ease. When I first started doing hair I would stress myself out worrying when a client would want a big change. I know I don’t need to worry anymore!
Any advice for young girls thinking about becoming a hairstylist?
Start! Soak in as much as you can from other stylists who have experience. As much as I disliked being in that tiny little shop I started at I learned more from that woman than I ever did in school!
Check out more of Danielle & her salon at www.rhondaelm.com